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Sunday, October 15, 2017


My workshop is in disarray. A new workbench is on its way but before that I have a hard time finding the motivation to clear up. Every time I have used a tool I hang up eight on their dedicated hooks, and there’s still a four inch layer of tools covering the bench and all other surfaces. 

But some things get done. I’m building an electric guitar for my friend Lars, and am in the process of glueing up the body blank. Pine from my own back yard, seasoned for years. I plane the edges of the boards and glue them up one by one. 

When I ran out of longer clamps a length of rope came in handy. 

And here’s my son planing wood for neck blocks. It’s so much fun building with him, I have to act cool though so my enthusiasm doesn’t scare him off. 

Here they are. Johan wants to tweak the shape of the rim a bit before glueing them to the top, I’ll do that on the hot pipe but wouldn’t fret if it was only me. 

And here’s a shot of the double neck electric. Almost done, obviously. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

New shape for the concert

When we bent the sides the other day they were a bit short. That would easily have been dealt with by making the shoulders a wee bit narrower, and I’ve always thought my concert mold was a bit wide at the upper bouts. But I went ahead and changed my template, and the inlay piece for my solera work board. So from now on my concert ukuleles (never mind we’re building a mini guitar and a cavaquinho right now) be more elegant. 

Here’s the side piece for Johan’s mini guitar on the solera. What we need now is a soundboard. 

But before you can plane a spruce top you need really sharp planes. So I sharpened my no. 4 and no. 3 Stanley planes on the water stones. 1200, 2000 and 8000 grit, followed by a quick honing on the strop. 

And it worked a treat. You just don’t get a surface like this with sandpaper. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Argapa: next generation

So. Remember that me and Johan did some heavy resawing with the frame saw a while back? Well all parts except for the tops are sanded to thickness and yesterday I managed to pry Johan from his phone for an hour. And we bent the sides for his mini guitar. 

It went really well, he got the idea and felt when the wood gave and when it didn’t. I thought I was gonna bend the sides for the cavaquinho I’m building for my friend and drummer, but I’ll do that on Sunday I think. 

Here are the sides, or more correctly; here’s the one piece rim Johan bent. 

Monday, September 11, 2017


I have some wood that needs planing, and the workshop is cluttered and needs a big clearing up. In fact, I will have to clean the bench before I plane that wood. So of course I veer off at a tangent instead of doing that. 

These two aluminium boxes will be miniature guitar amps! And I will play my bass through one of them and it will sound like a chainsaw cutting into a beehive. I put masking tape on the fronts to mark the holes. 

I use a step drill / Devo hat to make the holes. The amp modules are from ebay, the speaker cones are from the trash. Apparently my neighbours never tire off chucking speakers out. 

Done. They are better than my previous attempts. 

Now. That wood to plane. If only Incould see the top of the workbench...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Last steps on 103

Yesterday it was finally time to cross the finish line. Gathered round the uke are tuners, fishing line, bone saddle blanks and glass beads. 

I bought guitar saddle blanks that I cut down for nuts and saddles. In the pic you see the half pencil I use to dial in the height of the nut, the line shows the level of the frets. 

Then I use a ruler to lay out the outside string positions, marking them on the bridge. 

I divide the distance and use an awl to mark before drilling holes for the strings. 

My tiny drill is often known as a pin vise. But I think of it as a drill. 

I countersink the holes with a round engraving bit...

... and feed the strings through, put a bead on and tie the knot. 

That's as far as I got, photo-wise. The uke turned out great and it has a very nice voice. I'll see if I can get more pics up, or a recording. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Finishing the koa soprano

Just a couple of pics showing tve progress. There are five or six coats on, all so far applied without oil. But the muneca starts to drag now so I'll continue using oil to lubricate. 

The figure has popped quite nicely. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I thought about not making the bridge until I got back to the workshop, the slot is very difficult to make without the mini table saw. But then I thought, nah I'll give it a whirl. 

I made two lines with a knife, and carefully sawed with the tiny Exacto saw down in each. 

Then with an equally tiny mortise chisel I removed the wood between the saw cuts. First bottle of beer can be seen in the background. 

After a good deal of faffing the bridge was done, the sourdough rye pot bread was as well, and the second bottle of beer was under way. 

Measuring and laying out as usual, we've covered this many times...

...and the bridge glued in place with my favourite clamps (from metmusic in New York).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back braces, back and fretboard

Things are moving fast, I can't really keep up blogging at the same pace as I build the uke. Being at the no workshop cottage means I do everything by hand and that is a most welcome change from last year's batch building. 

In the first pic you can see the radius gauge I hastily made before going here, I couldn't bring the radius dish. So I shape the braces with a tiny plane. They're made from reclaimed wood from an old loom. 

I saw notches in the lining strips and then plane the ends of the brace to fit snugly. 

All three are done and glued in. Then I glued the back on, and by then the primitive conditions caught up with me - it went ok but was a bit stressful. I prefer my solera. 

And sitting on the porch I trimmed the edges and have sanded the body up to 600 grit. 

But I did forget something at home, my fretboard markers. So I rummaged through the cottage in search of something useful. Did I find a suitable replacement? You tell me. 

What's that I hear you grumble? Not enough saw action? Okay, have a look at the finished saws. More might follow. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fitting the neck

I started fitting the neck after some scraping and sanding. Close to the head I ran into some reversing grain so I had to use sandpaper more than I usually do for the final shaping. 

First I hollow out the heel a bit, with a gouge. 

And, demonstrating the versatility of the Zyliss vise, I clamped the neck carving jig with the jaws upside down and taped some sandpaper on it. Then I can drag the neck across, constantly checking the angles. Most of the hollowed out recess disappears during this stage but it being there prevents the neck from rocking. 

With low tack masking tape I mark out a centre line, which I don't have - this is a one piece top. 

And the jig I rigged up for a neck re-set a while back tells me I'm in the ball park. The jig was built for using on a neck with a fretboard but it works sort of. 

The drilling jig for the barrel nut and screw, also clamped in the vise. 

And the same jig used on the body for the matching hole. I had to enlarge this last hole a bit to get the neck perfectly aligned, but it won't matter. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Restoring a couple of saws

Something must've happened to my local fleamarket - I've scored several quality hand tools lately. These two saws I got for just 50 kronor (4 quid or 6 dollars). The smaller one is filed for ripping and the larger is for cross cutting. 

They were rusty and the handles are grimy and a bit nasty to touch. At least the screws came out effortlessly. 

I scraped off the old finish and will use Tru-oil. The smaller one looks better and is more comfortable. 

I put the blades in vinegar over night, this was supposed to get the rust off. Scrubbing with a brass brush, I saw that it had worked. 

Then I rinsed them in the lake and scrubbed some more. 

This is were we're at, two coats of oil on the handles and a light machine oil on the blades. The etching on the smaller saw appeared but was a bit damaged by the vinegar. The saw is English, I recognized the stamp but I can't make the name out. 

What's that I hear you grumble? Not enough ukulele action? Okay, have a look at this cedar neck. More to follow, I promise. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Resawing mesquite

Some of you know me well enough to know of my friend Brian Newman. Some of you knew him too, and loved him as I did. I built two ukes for Brian* and taught him to drink proper whisky (Ardbeg, of cöurse) and he showered me with gifts. The Dobro tenor guitar from 1935, the Kumalae ukulele, the very loud cowboy shirt and other stuff. He also sent me a rather large lump of mesquite wood from a tree he took down in the garden in Arizona. I have had it for a few years by now but never gotten around to resawing it, and I hadn't decided exactly what to use it for. 

But today a couple of things happened at the same time. I fixed my damn band saw with a new belt, and I got the urge for some fretboard blanks. And the mesquite was caught in the middle. 

The blade guide to the right of the blade is shot, the metal was crap and cracked. I made a rough fix for it and it held up, but I'll need to think of something more permanent. I did the sawing freehand with no guides, stopping every two or three cuts to plane the surfaces flat. The mesquite planes very nicely and I look forward to using it. 

At least 10 or 11 fretboards, and plenty of leftovers for matching bridges. The lighter sapwood seems as hard as the heartwood, so I can use the ones with shifting colour. 

* And there is Argapa 100, the soprano scale taropatch. It was Brian's idea but he never saw it realized. I think of Brian every time I play it. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Vacation is here

I'm around 18 hours in so far and vacation is goooood (said in Darth Sidious voice). First a couple of pics showing where I left the body of the koa soprano, backside is contoured and fitted with kerfed lining strips.

It's gonna be a beauty. Look at the figure. 

Then we went out to the cottage, I brought tools to work on a cedar neck. (Remember the last time I worked on necks at a cottage..? http://argapa.blogspot.se/2016/07/dead-in-water.html?m=0 )

At the cottage is my larger workshop, with a big ass vise, chilly temperature and zero sea view. So I thought I'd upgrade the banjo porch with a vise to work in style. 

To attach the vise securely I put four threaded insert nuts in the deck. Three are of brass, one steel but all have the same thread. 

It's easy to think the slot at one end is for a screwdriver, but don't make that mistake - it will maul the insert and make parts snap off. Instead you should use a screw with a nut halfway up, as in the pic. 

The slot actually cuts into the wood, making the insert go down into a tight fitting hole. 

And then we use the specially enhanced hex key to screw the vise in place. What, you don't own one?

At the cottage I found some alder neck blanks as well so I'll start by planing them flat and square. Dad's no.7 will do. Or will it, he must have used it himself. Probably on some epoxy residue because the blade is shot. My Japanese whetstone is soaking as I write this.